After talking to USI Service-Learning Coordinator last year about service learning, Dr. Stella Ress became interested in creating a project that could benefit both her students and a community partner, specifically, Historic New Harmony. Throughout spring semester 2017, Dr. Ress met with New Harmony staff to develop a project for HIST 498: Public History Seminar, that would allow students to perfect their historical research skills, while delivering a sought-after product for New Harmony (in this case, a more thoroughly researched interpreter's manual, and a "new" interpretation of one of their buildings on their current walking tour).
This academic service-learning project has two parts. Part one combines the interpreter’s manuals and footnotes. This phase of the project will help students develop their research skills and give Historic New Harmony an accurate and updated history of the town.
Part two of the project will have students working in small groups to develop interpretations of historic building and sites. According to Dr. Ress, USI’s unique relationship with New Harmony needs to be maintained. She is hopeful that undertaking this service-learning project with her students will attract additional student, University, and community partner collaborations in and for New Harmony in the future.
Service Learning projects benefit all parties. According to Dr. Ress, students participating in this service-learning project have opportunities to learn and grow, not to mention help them put meaningful experiences and skills on their resumes. Meanwhile, the final product they deliver to Historic New Harmony will help them better train their docent. In addition, Dr. Ress reports that she plans to write two articles about her experience, one being a pedagogy article, and the other focusing on methodology and project management.